Friday, March 25, 2011

You don't know what you've got til it's gone

Tomorrow evening between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. is Earth Hour, a time when many people make an effort to live without electricity, to give some consideration to our dependence on energy and come up with ways we can conserve it. Spending an hour in the dark is an interesting exercise in simple living. Not only does it foster a deeper appreciation for the electrical devices we take for granted, but conversation and relationship become more important than our gadgets and gizmos, as they should be.

If you watch Earth Hour coverage or commercials, you'll see that many places and people have turned it into another reason to party, but with a slightly higher consciousness of their energy use. Earth Hour has a high energy, feel good tone, saying, If you can do this, imagine what else we can achieve! That's great, but just IMAGINING isn't enough.

So what can we DO, to not only use less energy, but to save the earth's resources for future generations? Here's a basic list, in no particular order:

1. Shop at thrift stores rather than buying new. If everyone does this, all fashions will be in style, and no one will feel pressured to buy the newest line of clothing.

2. Use recycled products. If everyone does this, we will save a lot of trees in particular, but also a lot of other resources.

3. Avoid highly advertized products and seek simpler solutions. If everyone does this, we will cut down on chemical and resource use, not to mention advertizing energy and materials.

4. Reduce, reuse, recycle, recover: compost organic kitchen scraps, repair the broken, give away the good, share, and lend. If everyone does these things, we can stop extracting important elements from Earth's fragile ecosphere.

5. Dry clothes in sun and wind, or on a clothes rack/line. If everyone does this, we can get by with fewer nuclear facilities, hydro installations and coal burning power plants.

6. Grow food wherever possible, and buy local. If everyone does this, we'll be eating healthier foods and ingesting fewer chemical preservatives.

7. Eat lower on the foodchain. If everyone does this, we'll save the huge environmental costs of raising so much livestock.

8. Use rainbarrels, water-saving fixtures, and don't let clean water flow down the drain. If everyone does this, we also save energy because our water treatment plants aren't working needlessly.

9. Walk, bike, use public transit. If everyone does this, air quality will improve, as will our overall cardiovascular health.

10. Remember that every choice made matters, and that there are always earth-friendlier possibilities that might require a little sacrifice or inconvenience. And yes, imagine what else we can achieve! If everyone makes positive choices for the earth, that haunting line from Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi won't apply to the planet's limited resources -- or our existence as human beings.

Here's young Joni herself in 1970. Have a good Earth Hour!

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